Monday, November 16, 2009
Blogging the Offseason is a 30 team series in which I ask a blogging representative from each MLB team a series of ten questions about their desires and thoughts surrounding the offseason. Check out all of them here.
Today's team NL is the Colorado Rockies and our guest is Poseidon's Fist from the Rockies Blog, Purple Row.
1. The Rockies have a lot of pitchers, especially in the bullpen, entering free agency, whom do you think they keep around and whom do you think they jettison?
Due to several arbitration raises coming down the pipe, the organization will be going with a low cost approach this offseason. Jason Marquis, Alan Embree and Josh Fogg will be gone. There are three intriguing cases.
One: Joe Beimel, who will only return if he doesn’t find more than $2million elsewhere.
Two: Jose Contreras, who made $10million in the last year of his contact in 2009 but won’t garner anything near that on the FA market due to age and recent ineffectiveness. He was very effective out of the bullpen down the stretch for the Rockies and not too many stars would have to align for him to return, especially if Betancourt leaves.
Three: Rafael Betancourt. By all accounts, the Rockies want to retain him, though he has a very expensive $5million option, which Colorado declined. They then offered him a two year contract for about $7million, which Betancourt in turn declined. I have heard rumblings that they are close to a deal.
Randy Flores and Matt Belisle were both signed to cheap contracts last week.
2. Garrett Atkins is arbitration eligible, but coming off a down year where he was replaced in the every day roster by Ian Stewart, what do the Rockies do with him?
He will be non-tendered, as he won’t be worth anything near what his arbitration cellar will be. Buster Olney highlighted him last week as the gem of the non-tender class, but scouts have noticed he is out of shape, has lost bat speed and he seems to be having vision problems. He has declined every year since 2006 and is very poor defensively, so “Outkins” won’t be missed in Colorado outside of residual fan sentimentalities for the first wave of “Generation R”.
3. Outside of Atkins, Iannetta, De La Rosa and Street are all arbitration eligible, do the Rockies try to negotiation any long term deals or will they negotiation a 2010 salary?
Reports are the club would love to lock up Huston Street, who just finished arguably the best season by a closer in franchise history, even including the NLDS. He could be in line for a deal in the 3-year/$24mil range, part of the reason the rest of the bullpen looks to be built from cheap.
Clint Barmes might be offered up to a three year contact, much to the chagrin of many rabid Rockies fans.
There were rumblings last offseason about handing Chris Iannetta a contract, buying out his arbitration years, a la Troy Tulowitzki. However, O’Dowd held off, and Iannetta’s down year in 2009 put that idea on the back burner until next offseason.
Ken Rosenthal reported last week that Jorge de la Rosa would be looking for a contract similar to the 3-year $36mil contract Oliver Perez signed last winter. If that’s what he wants, it is doubtful Colorado will oblige, but I’m not sure anyone else would pay it either. The farm system is bursting with starting pitching prospects (Christian Friedrich, Tyler Matzek, Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers, Samuel Deduno and Juan Nicasio) and I can’t see them spending that much on DLR. That could actually lead to the Rockies trading him by the trade deadline before losing him for nothing if they cannot pay him (though another season like 2009 would net him Type A status).
4. Who is the one 2010 free agent that you want that you think the Rockies will logically go after?
I seriously doubt Dan O’Dowd will make a splash in the free agent market. The team was filled with several above average players (no superstars, no black holes), so there isn’t really a pressing need in any spot – just depth. The worst hitter in the lineup, Clint Barmes, had 23 HR as a 2B and played top flight defense. Jorge de la Rosa and Jason Hammel were the best 4-5 starters in MLB, and Hammel just set the Rockies’ franchise record in K/BB.
By allowing the young core to develop and grow more, the team should improve as it is. O’Dowd will simply supplement that core with bench players (someone like Daryle Ward, Mike Lamb, a RH 3B) and cheap pitchers.
5.Carlos Gonzalez was an animal in the division series. In your opinion, what will his 2010 numbers be and in what year does he make an all star team?
CarGo was an animal well before the NLDS as well. He had a solid Sept/Oct with a .846 OPS, 1.146 August, and .860 in July. He certainly looks like a superstar in the making, as I’ve never seen a player routinely hitting such hard-hit line drives. Some fans are even prematurely penciling him in as the 3-hole hitter next season, but I’m trying to temper my expectations, as his 2009 numbers were unprecedented compared to his minor and major league career beforehand. He was completely overmatched with Oakland in 2008 and with the Rockies in June this past season, and he has never dealt with the pressure of being given a major league job. If he continues his progression though, he could easily hit .290 with 25 bombs, 90 RBI and 25 thefts next season. Assuming he continues (which I cannot do, but will for the sake of the question), he could make an All-Star debut at Chase Field in 2011.
6. Jeff Francis was bad in 08 and then missed the entire 2009 season due to shoulder surgery, do you think he can return to his 06/07 form?
First of all, I can confidently say Francis was bad in 2008 because he was injured. Since he was the “Ace,” he tried to pitch through it.
Earlier this decade, surgery to repair a torn labrum was pretty much a death blow to a pitcher’s career, but it has progressed to the point it appears Francis could return. If any pitcher could return to effectiveness, it’s Jeff Francis. The baby-faced southpaw is extremely bright (he has a Physics degree) and the lost velocity won’t hurt him as much as it would a hurler who lives on his fastball. Francis’ A+ pitch was always his changeup, so as long as he can keep that 8-9mph difference between the two pitches, he can be effective.
In addition, Jeff doesn’t have to regain his 06/07 form to be an asset. The rotation will have Ace-in-the-making Ubaldo Jimenez as its #1, former All-Star Aaron Cook #2, Jorge de la Rosa third and Jason Hammel fourth. All Francis needs to be is an effective fifth starter, and I believe he can be. He reportedly outpitched Aaron Cook in a simulated game while Cook was injured in September, so there’s reason to believe he could be solid fifth starter. If he’s more than that, the Rockies will have a very solid rotation again, and All-Star Jason Marquis won’t be missed at all.
7. You've gassed your owner and have convinced him to spend like the Yankees, which three free agents do you sign?
Matt Holliday, John Lackey and Chone Figgins. The entire roster is stout but lacking super studs. Holliday is a fan favorite and could push Troy Tulowitzki into a spot in the batting order with less pressure on him, which may help avoid his annual April/May slump. Lackey is simply the best starting pitcher in the weak FA class, so he would solidify the rotation and remove the question marks of Francis/Morales/Rogers/Chacin/other FA. Chone Figgins was a former Rockie draft pick and could shore up the 2B spot as well as spell Ian Stewart at third should his issues with LHP continue. I would definitely try to add Mike Gonzalez as well to bring a strong left-hander to the pen. Naturally, O’Dowd won’t even kick the tires on any of these players, or really any in the tier below it. If you’re going for a more realistic gas-your-owner-and-GM deal, I’d consider Felipe Lopez.
8. Which Rockies prospect are you most looking forward to in 2010?
As far as making an impact on the big league club, Eric Young Jr has the best chance, although Barmes’ possible multi-year deal could put EY2’s chances of being the starting second baseman in serious doubt. Still, he is working heavily on adapting to several defensive positions so that he can be a super utility threat. Casey Weathers could have been the club’s closer this year had he not required Tommy John surgery. He could figure in the club’s pen this year, and Samuel Deduno would be an exciting dark horse for the pen after being the Texas League Pitcher of the Year in AA Tulsa last season. Yorvit Torrealba declined a 2-year/$4mil deal, as he is hoping to get starter money. The incumbent veteran backup Paul Phillips was let go, so if Torrealba leaves, AA catcher Michael McKenry could get an outside shot out of spring training for the backup role. He would be an above average defensive catcher in the majors right now, so it would be interesting to see him get a chance.
As for Rockies’ prospects in the minors, it will be very interesting to follow the 2009 draft class, which Baseball America ranked as MLB’s best. Tyler Matzek will have everyone’s eyes, obviously, and Rex Brothers could be on the fast track to being a lefty in the bullpen. Christian Friedrich has arguably the minors’ best curveball to complete arguably the best southpaw triumvirate in the minor leagues. I’ll be very excited to see how the stacked farm system progress.
9. I'm giving you the option to cut players without any salary repercussions, which Rockies do you part way with?
Garrett Atkins, Garrett Atkins, Garrett Atkins. He needs to be off this roster last year. Todd Helton is overpaid by a bit, but he’s still a very good hitter. I might consider Manny Corpas as well, though I hold out hope he’ll return to his 2007 form. He is apparently throwing very well currently. There are no other players providing less value than their contract, a huge credit to Dan O’Dowd./
10. What are the three things that need to happen this offseason to give the Rockies a chance the best chance to go from Wild Card to World Series?
1 - They will need to have similar luck in 2010 as in 2009 regarding injuries. Chris Iannetta’s sole 15-day stint on the DL represented the starting lineup’s only appearance on the DL, and the rotation went almost five months with the same five starters.
2 – Every team will have some players that fail to meet expectations, but this needs to be kept to a minimum. Iannetta and Stewart must take the step forward they have shown they can make, while someone needs to step up to become the cornerstone of the lineup. If Tulowitzki or Gonzalez consistently hit like they did the last three months of 2009, they could fill that role nicely.
3 – The Rockies led MLB in pitches seen per plate appearance, so they were plenty patient at the plate. However, they were dead last at putting strikes thrown into play, near the top in strike-out looking percentage and second to Arizona in strikeouts. I’d like to see them be a little more aggressive at the plate to avoid all those free outs.
4 – (Because they’ll need more to make the World Series) – Ubaldo Jimenez completes his transformation into an Ace.